Today's Baltimore Sun publishes the editorial, "End Md.'s death penalty."
What is somewhat incongruous about the timing of this push is that it comes a few days after the release of new poll data showing that Marylanders, by a solid margin, do not favor a repeal. An OpinionWorks survey conducted late last month and early this month found 48 percent opposed to a repeal and 42 percent in favor. Given the recent success of conservative activists in petitioning acts of the General Assembly to the ballot, it's fair to ask whether the governor and other repeal proponents are setting themselves up for failure.
We don't think so. There is strong reason to believe that when Marylanders think more deeply about the issue — and the alternatives to capital punishment — that a majority will support the end of a policy that costs too much, achieves little, and diminishes us as a society.
Support for the death penalty in Maryland is markedly lower than it is elsewhere — the most recent Gallup poll on the issue found support at 63 percent nationally, a significant drop from a high of 80 percent recorded in 1994. But both Gallup and OpinionWorks asked the question as a straight yes-or-no proposition, rather than presenting respondents with options. When life without parole is offered as an alternative in polls, the response nationally and in Maryland is quite different. A 2010 Washington Post poll found Maryland voters in favor of the death penalty by a 60-32 margin. But when the paper asked respondents whether they preferred life without parole or the death penalty as a punishment for murderers, life in prison won, 49-40.
That corresponds with the way Maryland juries have viewed the issue in recent years. In 2011, a Harford Countyjury decided against the death penalty for a Rosedale man convicted in a contract killing. The next year, an Anne Arundel County jury opted against the death penalty for a man already serving life in prison who was convicted of killing a prison guard. In fact, a Maryland jury has not sentenced anyone to death since 1998. Maryland has executed five people since reinstating capital punishment in 1976 and has five people on death row now, three of whom were sentenced in 1983. If jurors, who are forced to confront the gruesome facts of the most heinous murders, choose life without parole instead of capital punishment, so too will Maryland voters, if they are given a chance.
The Sun also carries news coverage of the governor's speech, "O'Malley predicts voters would back death penalty repeal." It's written by Michael Dresser.
Expressing confidence that "the will is there" in the General Assembly to do away with capital punishment, Gov.Martin O'Malley predicted Tuesday that Maryland voters would uphold a decision to repeal the death penalty.
As expected, O'Malley announced at an Annapolis news conference that his administration would sponsor legislation to abolish death sentences in the state.
Appearing with the national president of the NAACP and dozens of legislative co-sponsors, O'Malley predicted that this will be the year the General Assembly puts an end to capital punishment.
The Washington Post reports, "O’Malley calls for end of executions, confirming plans for repeal bill," by John Wagner.
O’Malley spoke at a packed indoor rally alongside civil rights leaders and other long-time repeal advocates, who expressed confidence that the votes will materialize to make Maryland the 18th state to end capital punishment.
“This is the year that we will end the death penalty in Maryland,” said Benjamin T. Jealous, chief executive officer of the NAACP, who argued that capital punishment was “broken from birth.”
Chances for passage have increased significantly this year with a pledge from Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) to allow debate on the floor of the chamber if there are insufficient votes in a key committee to advance the bill.
"Death-Penalty Ban Pushed in Maryland," by Ashby Jones in the Wall Street Journal.
Mr. O'Malley, a Democrat seen as a possible presidential hopeful in 2016, said he would introduce a bill to the state legislature this week calling for the full repeal of the state's death penalty. If it passed, Maryland would become the sixth state to abolish capital punishment since 2007—joining Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico and New York. Thirty-three states retain the power to sentence inmates to death.
In his remarks, Mr. O'Malley repeatedly referred to a 2008 study by a Maryland commission that found the cost of pursuing a capital case is three times the cost of pursuing a murder conviction with a sentence of life without parole. In recent years, death-penalty critics have questioned whether the occasional execution is worth the taxpayer money spent on lengthy appeals and costly lawyers for inmates, especially at a time when state budgets are strained.
The vote in Maryland's Senate is expected to be close, according to people familiar with the situation. Twenty-four of the Senate's 47 members need to vote for the bill in order for it to move to the state House of Delegates, where it is widely expected to pass.
"O'Malley joins NAACP in call to end death penalty," by Earl Kelly in the Annapolis Capital Gazette.
O’Malley wants to replace the death penalty with life without parole. He said modern prisons and improved protocols — not the death penalty — make prison guards safer, even without the threat of execution for someone serving a life sentence.
He pointed to the closing of the dilapidated prison in Jessup as an an improvement that protects guards.
“We have done a lot of things to better safeguard the lives of our officers,” he said. “I don’t believe the death penalty is a deterrence, even there (in prisons).”
O’Malley, making his case during a press conference in the Miller Senate Office Building in Annapolis, noted the United States ranks fifth in the world in the use of capital punishment, behind Iran, North Korea, China and Yemen.
NAACP president Benjamin Jealous said the death penalty tarnishes the image of the United States as a beacon to the rest of the world.
Earlier coverage from Maryland begins with Gov. O'Malley's full statement.